For 35 years I have made my living as a professional bassoonist. Along this long path of music making, there were always many choicesto make on which direction to go, which road to take, as is the case for every musician. The subject "Multimedia extends in Today's Art" is most fitting for these kinds of choices an artist of today must make.
In 1971 I met the American cellist Rebecca Rust at the World Orchestra of Jeunesses Musicales with concerts in Belgium and Florence. Karel Ancerl was the conductor of the summer session of this youth orchestra and Rebecca Rust was chosen to be principal cellist of Strawinsky's "Sacre du Printemps".
This was the first deciding influence, the work and study with the wonderful Maestro Karel Ancerl, which helped to form my decision to switch from being a mathematician to becoming a bassoonist. From 1977 until 2004 I was principal bassoonist of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (Muenchner Philharmoniker). There were many guest conductors, but the main influence on my musical approach was chef conductor Sergiu Celibidache's work of 17 years (1979-1996).
From the very beginning chamber music played a very important role in my musical development, further encouraged by Sergiu Celibidache, and together with my wife, Rebecca Rust, we encouraged many contemporary composers to write for our unusual combination of cello & bassoon. Besides duos we also received trios (cello, bassoon, piano) as well as one double-concerto (cello, bassoon, orchestra) and one concerto grosso for cello, bassoon, piano and string-orchestra. The most important composers who wrote for us and dedicated their compositions to us were: from Germany: Karl Michael Komma, Harald Genzmer; from Holland: Jan Koetsier; from Czech Republic: Jan Novák, Otmar Mácha; from Israel: Max Stern. The works are being successfully performed by us in Europe, Japan and the U.S.A.
The problematic situation for artists with the modern multi-media was very present in our work with Celibidache. On principal, Celibidache did not believe in making any studio productions (recordings). In his opinion, only a live performance had all the qualities necessary for the re-creation of a composition. Celibidache allowed live broadcasts of his performances but he did not allow these to be made into records (CDs) for commercial purposes. When he listened to the recording after one of his concerts, he felt it was falsified in many directions. The dynamic range was much more limited in recordings than in real concerts - many overtones were missing - and as a result the tempi did not have the same impact as in the performance. He compared a recording in relation to a concert with a black-and-white photo of Brigitte Bardot instead of her in person.
When my grandparents were in their 80s and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, they played Beethoven Symphonies for 4-hands on an upright piano. Since that time it is a wonderful thing that ordinary people like my grandparents can hear these symphonies performed by great interpreters and orchestras on record, especially as many people did not and still do not have access to concert halls in big cities where these artists perform. Also it is a great musical enrichment to be able to hear famous virtuosi and instrumentalists of former days on recordings, as well as compositions one never does hear in a concert hall. Between my wife and I we have recorded 13 CDs, mostly of unique and interesting works that have never been recorded before, as well as pieces composed for us. How many people have had a chance to hear the beautiful cello sonatas of Sir Donald Francis Tovey, Robert Kahn or Georges Enesco, the cello suite by Hans Gál, the cello pieces by Villa-Lobos (Pequena Suite) etc? This is a unique chance for these masterpieces to be available to a larger public. (Our CDs can be found on the Websites of NAXOS - MARCO POLO, BAYER-RECORDS and CAVALLI-RECORDS; one can listen to excerpts as well as download complete movements for a small fee).
But this easy access to music through records and radio has also negatively affected the old culture and tradition of house music-making. How many parents today still play 4-hand piano at home? Studies have shown that children who take instrumental instruction and learn to play an instrument have much higher school grades than children who don't.
Every system has pitfalls in itself, which one should be aware of and try to avoid as a conscious human being.
In February 1998 I played Beethoven's 9th Symphony at the Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan under the baton of Maestro Seiji Ozawa. During the live-performance of the 4th movement of this symphony at the actual opening celebration of the Nagano Winter Olympics (which was attended by H.I.M. Emperor Akihito and H.I.M. Empress Michiko as the patrons of the Olympic Games), the audience in the outdoor stadium as well as many choruses in different countries, Germany, France, South-Africa, South-America etc. all around the globe were going to sing simultaneously the famous chorus "Freude, schoener Goetterfunken, Tocher aus Elysium".
Since the broadcasting via Satelite would take a few seconds, the choruses in the different countries had to start singing just these few seconds earlier, in order that the final result, which then also would be broadcasted around the world, would really exactly be together. Because of the time differences, some choruses were singing in the middle of the night their time. The orchestra, the soloists and the chorus were performing under Ozawa in a studio in Nagano, because in the outdoor stadium it was snowing. Maestro Ozawa was very nervous because everything was really live, performance and broadcasting, but everything went very well, and on TV everybody around the world was really singing exactly together.
Only through the advanced technologies of multimedia could this event take place, symbolizing an ideal of unifying the world in brotherhood. This was an honest event where everybody made a big effort for the idea to succeed and everybody who watched and listened knew the true situation exactly.
An example of the opposite situation happened just now at the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington (Jan. 20th, 2009). Millions of people on television and on the scene itself heard a performance of a Quartett, played by Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill and Gabriela Montero, composed especially for this occasion by composer John Williams. This was presented as a live performance, but was in reality "playback", and the instrumentalists mimed as if they were playing, explaining afterwards that it was too cold to really play. Nobody who watched on TV or attended the ceremony was informed that this was "playback". This was found out and published by the "New York Times" a few days later and then also reported in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung", Munich, on Jan. 24th, 2009.
In the 1980's, Wolfgang Sawallisch took Munich musicians (including myself) to Italy for open air summer concerts in Roman amphitheatres. Also Sergiu Celibidache took the Munich Philharmonic to Granada, Spain, for open-air concerts. The acoustics in all these places were phenomenally good, without any electronic amplification. Several thousand people could enjoy one of these concerts and it was a real experience. Also the youth orchestra I had joined with Karel Ancerl in 1971 performed a beautiful outdoor concert at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence with natural acoustics. However, the Munich Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta performed a concert in a sports- stadium in India which had to be amplified because of the lack of natural acoustics. The performance (a Tschaikowsky Symphony) became abominable because there was no unified sound - sometimes one heard flutes, then the viola-section, some individuals were sticking out arbitrarily, without any musical logic. Celibidache refused to conduct all open air concerts which needed amplification. But of course a performer can earn more money, the more tickets that can be sold. Where does one draw the line between one's artistic obligation towards great music and one's financial private gain from commercializing music?
Maestro Celibidache allowed live radio and TV recordings of his concerts with the Munich Philharmonic. But he demanded strict rules for these recordings. For the radio recordings, all microphones had to hang from the ceiling; no microphone- stands were allowed in the orchestra in order not to disturb eye contact between conductor and instrumentalist. For TV recordings, Celibidache did not allow extra bright lighting nor moving cameras during performance, so as not to disrupt the atmosphere of a real concert. In Vienna our performance with the Munich Philharmonic of Bruckner's 4th Symphony was recorded for TV. Before publication, Celibidache demanded to see the film. The film showed mostly close-ups of mouths and fingers and sweat pearls. Celibidache said - this is a film for gynecologists - and refused to let it be publicized. Celibidache stuck to all these principles and although he was offered enormous sums of money for making studio recordings (for example in Japan), he refused to do it. During an interview for the Munich newspaper the "Abendzeitung" in 1979, Maestro Celibidache was asked why he does not make commercial recordings, as he would get as famous as Herbert von Karajan. Celibidache's answer was: "Coca Cola is also famous!"
Celibidache was always looking for a great spirituality to happen in performance. He mentioned that when everything was in harmony in a performance he could see a white light. His idea was that during the performance every note in a composition carries within itself the beginning to the end, as a complete unity. The white light could be seen when this total unity was achieved: a unity of tempo, balance, overtones, and many other details. And then he said of a performance - it is wrong to say it was beautiful but one must say - it was truth.
And I believe that when one honors the requirements for a great performance, a recording or DVD can be a great cultural enrichment for those who could not be there at these performances personally.
Since the time that Celibidache died (in 1996) the "Multimedia" has changed dramatically. In the studios one can change every note of a recorded piece arbitrarily. We must not allow these technical achievements to take us farther and farther away from the original sound and performance. Performers should still look for spontaneous individuality in music-making and not only trying to become famous through the terrific publicity available today in multimedia, or depending on machines to perfect balance and other problems which players should attend to themselves; when musicians stop doing the work themselves that they should be doing in recordings this negatively affects their concretizing level. We must work to avoid perfectly manufactured and processed artificial products, which don't have much in common with inspired and inspiring art. To help us towards these goals, we have wonderful records of earlier music-making from the great artists of the last century available for reference, for instrumentalists, conductors and orchestras as well as media technicians.
For more than one year my personal memories of Maestro Celibidache have been published in the bimonthly Japanese magazine "Classical Journal" in the numbers from 28 to 34 and the great interest in the memories made the Japanese publisher decide to print a book of these stories to be published in 2009.
Last July 2008 after one of our chamber concerts in Tokyo with cello, bassoon & piano a Japanese gentleman came to us with the last issue of "Classical Journal" for us to sign and he said to us: " I have read everything available on Maestro Celibidache but this was all new to me."
I personally look up to Maestro Celibidache as an ideal as a musician and a person in the sense that he was one of the only famous musicians of my time who was not bribable by money or fame but always worked for keeping artistic principles alive.
Friedrich Edelmann - Rebecca Rust / Germany - USA /